iPhone 4!: living up to expectations
I skipped the iPhone 3GS…it just came at the wrong time in my AT&T contract, and the reasons to upgrade, video and a slight speed bump, were just not compelling enough to shell out what it would have cost me for the early upgrade.
Of course, that made me particularly eager for Apple’s next iPhone offering. I followed every rumor for more than a year. The leaked iPhones, with their tantalizing mix of new features and new look, along with tidbits gleaned from the developer versions of iOS4, only built my anticipation and solidified my determination to upgrade. I followed the actual iPhone 4 announcement on live-blogs and twitter. And, of course, after a frustrating hour with Apple’s site, I preordered my iPhone 4 upgrade direct from AT&T at just after 5AM on the 15th.
Ordering from AT&T meant that I was not one of the folks who got their iPhone 4 on the 22nd or the 23rd. Mine came on the 24th, when I was 300 miles from home, with a daughter at her college orientation. Sigh. Still it was there when I got home on Friday night, and I had it activated and all my apps and music loaded before bed-time.
I have now lived with it for 3 weeks, and I can honestly say, despite all the flap about the antenna problem, it has lived up to every expectation.
Lets get the antenna issue out of the way right up front. My impression so far is that the actual performance on both voice and data is slightly to greatly better (depending on where you are) than my iPhone 3G. It is really had to tell. Though 3G coverage in Southern Maine is pretty good, we live in an AT&T pocket, where reception has always been a problem. I have tried antennas and signal boosters. Nothing helps much. I show maybe one bar more with the iPhone 4 than I did with the 3G…maybe…the signal comes and goes (I think the technical term is breathes)…but then it has always done that here. On a visit to Rockland this week, which is outside the 3G coverage, I was able to get emails and send texts over EDGE in areas where I had not been able to 6 weeks ago with my 3G. This is a good sign. I have yet to drop a call or have a data transfer fail. This is also a good sign.
[Note 7/16: iOS 4.0.1 cured this particular problem…I can no longer make the bars drop with the case on! This is good, I think.]
On the other hand, even with a case on, I can, in some situations, especially when the phone is showing high bars, make the bars drop by shielding the bottom left side of the phone with my hand. Maybe it is my aura? If I change my grip, I can watch the bars climb back up. On the other hand, in these same areas the bars fall and climb even with the phone lying flat on a table not being touched at all.
I will be traveling to the west coast the week after next, so I will give the phone and AT&T’s network a real workout. I will report back. So far, though, while I admit that I would be happier if the signal were always at 5 bars, I am pretty pleased with the iPhone 4’s performance as a phone.
[Note 8/7: I have now taken several trips with the iPhone 4 and I can definitely say that overall phone reception is better than my iPhone 3G. Quite a bit better. Even in north coastal California, where EDGE was all, the phone still worked fine. And I was pleasantly surprised by the amount of 3G I was able to pick up, even in the more rural areas of CA. This is good.]
Lets be plain: in every other way, the iPhone 4 and iOS4 simply blow away any other portable computing device or platform I have ever owned or imagined. The iPhone 4 is blazingly fast compared to my 3G. Apps open faster, even from a cold start. When iOS4 compliant apps return from saved state (that is when they have been open and active already) it really does feel like they were running all the time in the background. Apps that would barely run on the 3G (say Navigon or the Audubon Field Guide series) simply cruse on the iPhone 4. Even apps that were already fairly snappy on the 3G (my twitter clients like SimplyTweet or Osfoora) are noticeably snappier on the iPhone 4. Switching views, for instance, is instantaneous. Pop. This speed makes using useful apps just that much more enjoyable.
I am, in fact, loving the app launcher tray, the folder system, the whole look and feel and logic of the new OS. It works for me.
Then there is the camera. You have to remember I am coming from a 3G, not a 3GS, and the improvement in the photo quality is simply stunning. The camera, like the OS, just works for me. I would never have considered my 3G camera a serious substitute for a real camera: crappy lens, no focus, iffy exposure, etc. On the other hand, if caught out in the world with just my iPhone 4, I could easily be a happy photographer. I would miss a zoom lens, but except for that, the camera does a very respectable job of capturing the world. And HD Video. It even works behind the eyepiece of my spotting scope for some emergency HD Vid and decent stills of birds. [Note 7/16: In addition to the above, I have discovered new apps like AutoStitcher and Pro HDR that allow me to do things with my iPhone 4 camera that would be impossible (or at least much more difficult) with most conventional cameras.]
Oh, and did I mention the screen? Sharp. Vivid. Pretty okay outside (though not great…this is no OLED). It looks as good or better than the screen on my 11 inch laptop.
Finally, though it may seem silly, one of the things I especially like about the iPhone 4 is that I can carry it in a case without it taking up any more pocket space than my naked 3G…and this is good for both antenna reasons and for protection for that lovely, but fragile, glass back! (Not that I intend to drop it, even in the case! You see my iPhone in it’s iFrogz silicone case in the pic above.)
So…yes…the iPhone 4 is living up to my expectations and then some.
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